Band director Andy Cary never canceled a concert in his 14 years Pendleton High School — until a recent mystery infection brought him down.
A few weeks ago, he noticed a pain on the left side of his chest and immediately worried about a heart issue. After noticing a lump near his sternum, he figured the problem was muscular. He started icing down his chest and taking it easier. Maybe it was a torn pec muscle or a cracked rib, he reasoned.
With no improvement, he finally saw a chiropractor and then a doctor, had blood tests, X-rays and physical therapy. Finally, he ended up at the St. Anthony Hospital emergency room Thursday night in unrelenting pain. He was admitted and Monday traveled by ambulance to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland.
“I was getting steadily and exponentially worse,” Cary said groggily Wednesday morning by phone from his OHSU bed.
Slowly he responded to antibiotics and he hears he’ll be released soon with a treatment plan. The specific root of his troubles, however, is still to be determined.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” Cary said. “I’ve had all sorts of blood tests. It’s been a process of elimination. We’re waiting on lab results right now.”
Cary’s significant other, Emily Callender, has stayed close. Because Callender directs the high school choirs, she and Cary opted to cancel both band and choir concerts scheduled for next Wednesday and Thursday.
“In my 19 years as a band director (five at Umatilla High School), I’ve never canceled a concert. It was not something we came to lightly,” Cary said, “but the kids reacted with understanding. They are more concerned about me getting better. It’s really touching.”
Cary, who also plays alto sax and sings in a local jazz quartet, hopes to return to his usual healthy self soon, but the concerts, even if he recovers quickly, are history. He and Callender will focus on rehearsing for the holiday concerts in December.
“There’s no option to reschedule,” Cary said.
Cary admitted he feels a little embarrassed about the steady outpouring of concern from students, family, friends and even casual acquaintances.
“My phone is always lighting up,” he said. “They connect with me on social media, they send texts and emails — it’s been overwhelming in all the best ways.”
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-966-0810.